Equality: When Everyone Gets a Prize, Everyone Gets Nothing

High school trophies. Some people buy their own trophies today through the mail or via the Internet, very inexpensively.
High school trophies. Some people buy their own trophies today through the mail or via the Internet, very inexpensively. | Source

Equality and Diversity In One Universe

A legion of voices shouts for equality.

While humans are worthy of equal rights, not all display the same talents and aptitudes. Because of this diversity, a byword for 30+ years because of our quest for that as well, everyone will not win the same brand or magnitude of praises, recognitions, award certificates, merit badges, promotions, pay raises, Nobel Prizes, Orders of the Falcon, Russian Medals of Merit, Orders of the British Empire, etc. At least that is true for many adults in the larger segments of American society.

Despite a large portion of the American public's striving for both equality and diversity, mediocrity is sometimes rewarded at the same rate and magnitude as excellence in order to ensure a type of equality that serves no one.

Among some groups that reward mediocrity, achievers become discouraged and feel punished for doing well. They stop doing well. Some begin performing at a level below mediocrity and lose their jobs or fail school. Thus, they are punished for doing badly and punished in a different way for doing well.

The Medal of High Achievement

Golden Medal of High Achievement in school; Belarus, 1962. This was a very much coveted award.
Golden Medal of High Achievement in school; Belarus, 1962. This was a very much coveted award.
show route and directions
A markerBelarus -
Belarus
[get directions]

B markerSiberia, Russia -
Siberian Federal District, Russia
[get directions]

See last paragraph of Hub.

Literary References and the 21st Century

A book and a short story come to mind at the mention of equality and awards:

  • Animal Farm by George Orwell,and
  • Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.


In the book Animal Farm, an old veteran pig dreams of a society in which all animals are equal and maintain their equality through consistent hard work and erasure of economic class and color lines (similar to the idea of the Soviet proletariat and "Workers of the World, Unite!"). In the short story Harrison Bergeron, the US Department of Handicappers creates a type of negative equality by forcing the more intelligent, attractive, strong, creative, innovative, etc. members of society to wear machines and weights that diminish their abilities to that of the Citizens at the lowest point on those scales.

Do these things occur in American society? -- To a degree, yes.

We may leave high school believing that the hardest workers and the A and B students will receive the best job offers, promotions, and pay raises; but, we often find that this is not the case. One must "fit in" with the company culture and fulfill other intangible conditions as well as to work with visible and measurable production results, help to raise the Bottom Line, increase the customer base, and other tangibles.

Idi Amin probably had too many medals.

Idi Amin probably had too many medals. While President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979, Idi Amin committed appalling acts of violence against the people of his country.
Idi Amin probably had too many medals. While President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979, Idi Amin committed appalling acts of violence against the people of his country. | Source

In childhood, some students in the USA in the same classroom may all receive the same awards for achievement or for none, but the World of Work does not offer that system usually. This is a surprise and one that hurts.

Some workplaces and even social clubs are becoming filled with cacophonies of adult voices complaining that Ms. So-and-so does not deserve such-and-such award, promotion, or sales prize. The voices become louder, if a manager praises a worker in the open. In extreme cases of envy, that worker may receive prank phone calls, threatening or pornographic emails, and even a death threat.

The successful are sometimes bullied.

The less sucessful sometimes shout that they are ignored or oppressed because they are "too good."

It is a complicated society.

It has been true that the bulk of some groups try to bring back or hold back a member that tries to improve his or her life and move on to another group or independence. This is true of many GED classes, inlcuding those I taught for several years. However, in the early 2010s, some work groups and social groups alike seem to be violently and increasingly opposed to any member receiving positive attention.

Envy is even sometimes disguised as claims that awards and rankings are "divisive."

The Tuskegee Airmen - Well Deserved Belated Awards

March 29, 2007. In the US Capitol, Tuskegee Airmen of WWII received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress.
March 29, 2007. In the US Capitol, Tuskegee Airmen of WWII received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress. | Source

Merit Badges

One must be a Boy Scout in order to earn this Merit Badge accolade. Six (6) levels of requirements must be met.
One must be a Boy Scout in order to earn this Merit Badge accolade. Six (6) levels of requirements must be met. | Source

How About Young Children?

In some US facilitities designed for young children in Pre-K3 through 5th grade, schools, sports clubs, and other outfits award all children materially for taking part in activities. These groups award the same certificates and trophies to all, no matter the actual achievements or lack thereof. For the youngest ages - 3, 4, and 5 - this may be OK; perhaps not for anyone older.

Children that go on to World Class and Olympic Class gymnastics training receive a shock equal in their minds to a nuclear event -- They are told the truth and instructed to improve where necessary.

Not everyone wins. Children become adults, enter the workplace, and most employers are as demanding as the former gymnatics coaches were. In fact, under the concept of Continuous Improvement (CI) instituted in business in the late 1980s - 1990s, workers are expected to do much more than show up on time and do the basic tasks of the job.

Workers used to receive raises for showing up on time, completing minimum tasks, and being at their desks or stations for the required time periods during the day. However, that tradition crashed earlier than the opening of the CI gateway. Giving awards for no reason is misleading and can lead to adult disappointment.

Giving the same award to everyone all the time is not wise in the long run, because it is a system of giving everyone nothing - nothing special. However, a few companies manipulate workers by giving awards to employees that do not deserve them, rather than to those that positively impact the business. In fact, some top achievers are ignored or penalized in a small way as well. Leaders that do all this claim that it sparks competition and increases the Bottom Line. Does it? I think it causes workers to seek other employment.

Age 6 is probably a good milestone at which to defrock the fairytale godmother of Same Awards for Everyone, for she is a phantom.

It might be a good idea for parents and teachers to begin talking to children before the 1st Grade about awards and how to actually earn them, making the requirements clear and offering constructive help - but not doing the work for the children.

Lake Wobegone, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

-- Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion

To me, the quotation above is an idyllic reference, one that light-heartedly wishes there were such a place with such people

Lake Wobegon Trail MN

A markerLake Wobegon -
Lake Wobegon Trail, MN, USA
[get directions]

Thoughts

I don't think we want to become a nation behaving like the USSR of the past, mollifying citizens with awards to distract them from real inequalities of low wages and imposed starvation -- The teachers and railroad engineers in Siberia (see map above) were not paid their salaries at all during one two-year stretch in the late 1980s; but citizens wore their consolation-prize award medals proudly every day.

.

It seems that many people like awards, want awards, and may go to extremes to obtain awards. They may even complain about others' awards and in extreme cases, seek to have them revoked.

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Comments 18 comments

MickeySr profile image

MickeySr 3 years ago from Hershey, Pa.

This is one of those (currently popular idea) things that is just astounding to watch people fall for. The dizzying delight of a world where no one ever has to try again after more practice, where everyone is picked first, must simply be so intoxicating for some that reason is just chased from the room. But, the real solution is, how about if the kid who can't get a base hit is cheered for his art project, and the kid who never gets a grade above a C is esteemed for his kindness - how does giving every kid a track trophy, the kid who always comes in first and the kid who always comes in last, how is that helping anyone, doing any good?

This goofy notion has given us a generation of people who think they should be famous just for being the special person everyone's been telling them all their life they are - the whole concept of accomplishment seems lost on them, they've all been adopted into the Kardashian clan and want to be famous for being famous . . . remember when Lindbergh flew across The Atlantic Ocean? Alvin York, Alan Shepard, Muhammad Ali . . . sometimes you wonder if we'll ever see their like again . . . or if anyone under 30 knows who any of them are.

. . . good for you, I know there's more of us than it seems sometimes.


torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 3 years ago

Hi Patty,

I feel that if all prizes were given equally to everyone

then no one would want to compete anymore. In this

society, there has always been competition to be better than the last or to

maintain that position of being in charge or having power. I do believe as you that the successful may have been bullied.

thanks for this hub and your perspective.

Voted up and shared.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Kids receive awards on their best achievements, but when they show poor abilities they don't receive an award for that. Interesting information on Equality: When Everyone Gets a Prize, Everyone Gets Nothing.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 3 years ago

Sad to say, many of our schools practice this notion. They reward everyone and kids graduate without the ability to read! We are becoming a nation of under achievers and that really does spell the end for us. Up and interesting and useful, too.


drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

Patty, m'dear, you are the Voice of Reason in an ever-more-insane world. Voted way, way up!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I have found in my own career that I got numerous certificates for such things as taking a class, getting a promotion, a special achievement. etc. After so many of them they get boring and meaningless. Award ceremonies were a regular thing. There were some employees who were all excited to be recognized, have their pictures taken and shake the hand of the boss. There were others who refused to participate of have their pictures taken One size does not fit all, no matter what.

up votes and sharing.


someonewhoknows profile image

someonewhoknows 3 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

College students aren't Immune from theft of anything valuable they came up with and without any acknowledgement of their work.

http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/graduate-schoo...

http://www.collegemagazine.com/editorial/1004/Appl...


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 3 years ago from Texas

Your piece here makes the point that I harp on incessantly....equality and fairness are bi-products of other actions. They cannot be effectively legislated and implemented. Opportunity is the equalizer of society. I was never allowed to be a Navy Seal nor did I try but under the umbrella of equality and fairness, why was I not asked? In effect, at some point and time, that opportunity did exist in my but I did not act on it thus who am I to say that my inability to be a Navy Seal represents inequality and unfairness in our society? Such talk only acts to stir the emotions of those who envy the success of others and feel they deserve it as well even though they show no aptitude, talent, drive or determination in that regard. A truly free society will always take liberty and opportunity and always hail the winner in their success. It is the magic which drives us all to better ourselves. Nice work! ~WB


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 3 years ago from Central Texas

Excellent, excellent article -- and on a very important subject. Life, and succeeding in it, is a part of the competition process whether it be in one's chosen career, sport, etc. There should always be a winner and sadly, a loser, BUT it promotes great opportunities to do better and rise to "winner" status if you fail. I definitely think this "everyone gets a prize" idea is total nonsense. It takes all challenge out of not only kid games and sports but out of life in general. Again, wonderful work here! Best/Sis


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

We've had many discussions on this subject at my house. This is truly the basis for mediocrity, when everyone is rewarded the same for differing levels of achievement, why bother doing your best? I think you've touched on the basis for our diminishing level of accomplishment.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

Let me begin responding to these thoughtful comments:

@MickeySr - I know some recent collge grads who work hard and accomplish a lot, and an equal number that went home to parents to play video games and drink heavily. I must say that the latter all belong to parents that do everything, totally everything, for them. I don't know about awards they received in K-12.

The "famous for no reason" phenomenon among celebrities and others is pretty useless, except that it gets the public to spend money on related things. I suppose it's a business sector, but one I can do without.

@torilynn - It's a wrong world where people that work harder because they want to do so (not pathological workaholics) are bullied and all competition is marked "evil" -- People don't even need to compete agasint others, but just themselves, and society is benefitted.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

@DDE - I think awards need to gain and hold some more substantial meaning starting in the first grade.

@breakfastpop - Hope you are well! In Central Ohio we have one high school that specializes in graduating youth who cannot read, who have long police records, and similar problems. I don't think it helps them, but someone on the school board feels that at least they have diploma. Still, most of them cannot work because of illiteracy.

When I published this Hub, I immediately received a flaming email stating that if we make kids *earn* real awards, then our country, when these kids are adults, will not be able to negotiate peace and business with other nations. I stopped reading at that point even though there were four additional paragraphs.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

@drjb - Thanks for visiting with me again. I try to maintain a reasonable outlook, but don't always succeed.

I think it's compelling that in one of the links about awards, a child herself says she knows when praise is fake and is insulted by it.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

@dahoglund - Thanks for your experiences! I remember one restaurant mgr. that went through the crew roster alphabetically and awarded each worker in turn the Employee of the Month Award and then went back to the top of the list, instead of collecting the data to show good work. Employees thought it was a complete joke.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

@ someonewhoknows - exactly what you mean. When Carl Jung was head of the American Psychological Association, The Ohio State University psych department lost its accreditation and one reason given was that professors took students' work as their own.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

@Wayne Brown - It would certainly take too much tome for the Navy Seals to contact all adults inthe US and ask them to join! One day, I hope all hard workers are rewarded everywhere. Hopefully, we're getting closer to that.

@Angela Blair -I wish we were to the point of progress across the nation that some winners did not sneer at losers and some losers did not sneer at winners as "nerds" or comformists! The sneering losers are the bigger group where I live, but I hate a "poor winner" too. If failure could be acknowledged as an opportunity by everyone (as did Thomas Edison), we'd do better as a people.

@PegCole17 - I remember one small workplace here that lasted only six months, because they rewarded non-productive staff much more than they did productive staff. What I saw was hard to believe.


mylindaelliott profile image

mylindaelliott 3 years ago from Louisiana

I love your reasoning. I'm still mystified at who and why someone thinks that everyone winning is a good idea. Thanks for the hub.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

I agree - Similarly, when everyone is a milionaire, everyone is equally poor because of associated inflation. I'm thinking also, what if everyone who takes Air Traffic Controller tests passes, even if they don't really pass? We'd have a lot of plane crashes.

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